Monday, April 04, 2011

At-Game Recap (Part 2): What's Changed, What Hasn't (April 3 vs. Giants)

Part 2 of my At-Game Recap (from the Sunday April 3 game vs. the Giants) collects some random observations on what has and hasn't changed at the Stadium in 2011. Keep in mind, I was so intoxicated by being back at Dodger Stadium for my first game this year, as well as by witnessing the Giants go down to defeat, that I probably missed some things here and there. But here's some top of mind stuff--plus a little bonus comment at the end.

*****

Things that haven't changed:

1) Parking and traffic getting into games is still a nightmare. Forty minutes prior to the start of the game, the crawl up toward the Sunset gate was interminable:

I barely made it in before the first pitch, and I know I heard the national anthem from just outside the parking lot turnstiles. I know the Stadium was over 90% full, but the journey from Sunset Boulevard up the hill to the parking lot shouldn't take a half-hour. The bottleneck continues to be the parking turnstile agents, who seem to insist upon having lengthy conversations with each motorist. Or maybe the drivers think they're confessional booths, and suddenly feel the need to chat as they fork over fifteen large ($35 for RVs and limos)?

2) We're still playing God Bless America before the seventh inning stretch. Not to be unpatriotic, but I am not entirely fond of this "tradition" but I've gotten used to it by now (and admittedly I sing along, just as I do with the 7IS). And when you have a decent performer like Sunday night's game, it's tolerable as a prelude to Nancy Bea's "Take Me Out To The Ballgame". One could also argue that it iced Dan Runzler before his fateful seventh inning disaster, I suppose. However,...

3) ...we are unfortunately still playing Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" after the eighth inning. No Jameson Moss tonight. This vice (I'm not calling it a "tradition" or even a "habit") has grown thin. We've got to move on. AND, one could argue that this tune inspired the Giants to try and mount a comeback (they did score runs in the eighth and ninth innings); remember, the Giants co-opted this song as their own during their title run last year.

Enough with the DSB.

4) For more in-between-innings fun, there's still a Smile Cam and a Kiss Cam, and now there's a Dance Cam (the latter of which might have happened last season, but I had blocked out the memory). I'm assuming we're going to add the engine-revving Overhead Cam, the historically nostalgic Helen Cam, and the Anglophile-riling River Cam by season's end.

5) We're still doing the wave. Twice, in fact, one time during a Dodgers rally. Come on, people! This is not the 80s! Grow up!

6) Field level concession lines before the game are still long and slow. And as SoSG reader Josh S. reported, the same lethargy happens on other levels as well. We gotta get some operations guys in here to figure out how to increase throughput.

7) The Picante Dog still isn't very spicy. Ever since they moved away from the Louisiana Hot Sausage (circa 2009), it's been a salivary somnambulation. Bring back the Louisiana Hot Sausage, or at least offer peppers with the Picante Dog!

8) And on the positive side: an evening in Dodger Stadium is still heaven. Not to get sentimental, but date night at the Stadium is always a magical thing. One could say, like a beautiful symphony, it's Saxes and violins. (ouch)

*****

Things that have changed in 2011:

1) There are no players' portraits on the outside of the stadium, which the cynic in me says either represents a reduction in marketing expenses, or indicates that everyone is potential trade bait:

2) Beer cups seem to be smaller (or my hands have gotten a lot larger since last season (no, I am not juicing)). At the normal Dodger concession stands, the only size of beer cup available was in this quasi-souvenir semi-thick plastic cup that said "BEAT THE BAY" on one side. I didn't even notice the writing on the side because I was blown away at the smaller volume of liquid:

Now, it's an interesting conundrum. On the one hand, more expensive beer could mean it will lead to fewer drunks carousing the game and parking lots completely out of control. That's good. On the other hand, for a responsible individual like me who can control his drinking, I'm now getting less volume of beer. That's bad. And who knows; maybe these size cups will lead to more concealed-flask behavior (which I've seen, and always ends up horribly)?

(I should note that I saw other large-sized beer cups among my section, so perhaps I just chose the wrong concession line.)

3) There are many new sponsors, some of which were a bit surprising given how prominent the Dodgers' brand once was. In fact, the Dodger "hat shuffle" has been replaced by three garages, as the DiamondVision animation is now sponsored by a storage rental facility company.

The outfield wall looks like a classified page:

I mean, DeWalt and Stanley Tools? And Merrill Lynch Wealth Management squished in the right-field corner ("Ethierwood")? (I'll talk about the advertisers in the Dodgers' "Playbill" program (distributed by the parking turnstiles upon entrance), as well--we really seem to be dipping into the dregs for some of these sponsors.)

On the anchor-sponsor side, United Airlines (with its new merged-with-Continental logo) now sponsors the suite level (or at least, some of the suites), getting some gleaming new letters beneath:

4) Canter's Delicatessen is sadly gone (though my mother claims the corned beef sandwich was never as good as the real Canter's and was often too dry at the Stadium). In its place: Dodger Deli, serving passable (C+) pastrami sandwiches:

Bread-to-pastrami ratio has increased to untasty levels. But at least there are hot peppers.

5) BEER DELIVERY TO SEATS! My heart leapt...until I realized it was actually just a mobile hot chocolate vendor:

(cries)

*****

Finally, a comment about Josh Rawitch, the Dodgers' VP of Communications. Rawitch was kind enough to stop by and say hi to me and Mrs. Sax. And given how TJ Simers pilloried Rawitch in his Sunday column, I had to ask him his thoughts about the security issue this weekend.

I wasn't at the games Thursday-Saturday, but the news of the vicious and cowardly assault on the Giants fan in the parking lot of Thursday's game really shook me. My email starting ringing off the hook when news of this spread, both from Dodgers fans (who were outraged) and Giants fans (who were shocked).

My conversation with Rawitch was off the record, so I can't get into detail--but let me say this: I know Simers was making a point (and I thought he did a pretty good job in his column, relative to other columns he has written), but to classify Rawitch as "insensitive" is not fair. It was clear to me that Rawitch is indeed deeply troubled by this on both professional and personal levels, and the issue of what the Dodgers organization can or can't or should or shouldn't do is complex.

Again, I can't compare the crowds from Thursday to Sunday night. But I did notice that there were security guards slightly more visible than last year inside and outside the Stadium:

On top of that, there was a between-innings video with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (who was soundly booed in my section) admirably pleading for rational behavior between Giants and Dodgers fans (more or less saying to keep the rivalry on the field of play). And, there were multiple screens throughout the game talking about the Dodgers' Hotline number, to call or text if anyone is interfering with someone's enjoyment of the game (they also continued to air the "Code of Conduct" video, narrated by Tommy Lasorda Sunday night).

One can argue that these measures aren't enough, that the Dodgers should do more to ensure that the experience of visiting a Dodger game is a safe one for families. I can sympathize with this argument. I've seen things get more out of control over the last couple of years, whether it's overwhelmed parking lot security guys on meek Segways trying to "confront" hordes of dismissive tailgaters, or awful parental behavior from flask-carrying guys picking fights in the stands, or obscenity-laden taunts to people wearing the opponents' jerseys.

In fact, the guy sitting next to me was a Giants fan, and he wore black and white (with no orange) partially because he didn't want to stand out after Thursday's incident. Which I thought was kind of sad. (I like to think that the other reason why he didn't wear orange is because the color is so ugly with the black, but that's another topic.)

The Dodgers need to keep doing things big and small to ensure a safe environment for its audience. It should be a place we can take our children and enjoy a baseball game without fear of being beaten into coma.

But I agree with SoSG Orel, some of that responsibility has to fall on ourselves, as fans, too. We need to show some dignity. We need to step in if we see misconduct or threatening behavior. We need to be respectful of our fellow man, even if the ones that happen to be Giants fans.

After Duke Snider recently passed away, Sports Illustrated ran a great black-and-white photo of a game involving Snider. A reader wrote a subsequent letter to the editor commenting how the crowd, clad in suits and ties and (formal dress) hats, was clearly more reserved and respectful than the crowds at today's sporting events.

Society has gotten less civil. We need to do our part too to help restore order and decorum.

Anyway, I appreciated Rawitch coming down to chat; I'm sure he's really busy (particularly on Opening Series weekend), but the gesture was very kind and the conversation informative. Let's celebrate the positives of this homestand, starting with the 3-1 series victory--and build upon it when we host the Cardinals next Thursday.

Oh, by the way: Rawitch confirmed that ticket holders to a specific level are not allowed access to other levels in the Stadium, a policy that I thought had relaxed but I guess has not. I'd be more supportive of inter-level access, secured by ushers stationed at each aisle who check tickets and monitor their respective sections (it appeared that ushers were placed every-other-aisle last night). I'll have to ask Rawitch about this next time we meet.

Earlier: Part 1

9 comments:

Josh S. said...

The policy in recent years has been that you couldn't go to any level lower than the one you were holding a ticket to, but you could freely go anywhere above it. The exception was top deck ticket holders could go down to reserve for more food options. (That is still allowed, according to the website.)

Steve Sax said...

That is one bizarre caste system.

Dodger Mom said...

You mom is right about Cantor's. My husband would agree with #3. I too cannot wait to go to a game. A day at Dodger stadium is still one of the best times around. Or as I like to call it "The happiest place on my earth."

Jimbo said...

As a Dodger fan in Gnat territory who has experienced plenty of verbal harassment, This Jimbo believes fans should be respectful towards each other and prays for elegant behavior in a more civilized age.

Alex Cora said...

Man, that sandwich looks SAD. Too much bread to meat ratio. Sad sad sad attempt Dodgers. Did you try the Doyer dog?

Dusty Baker said...

I went to three of the four games this home stand. I had a mostly wonderful time at Blue Heaven on Earth. I seem to always accentuate the negative in this space, but you all know how I feel towards our Yard andnhow I'd take a bullet for it (gangbangers: that's a metaphor, not an invitation). Come to think of it, do gangbangers know what metaphors are? Anyway, with that Chavez Ravine love caveat, here are some of my takes from the opening series:

Clearly there have been few, if any, upgrades. Mostly, there were downgrades, in fact. Specifically, the player profiles removed from the outer part of the stadium. I was happy when they finally took Darren Dreifort and Kevin Brown down, but jeesh, the place looks Nellie now. Also, on the inside, all the player and former Dodger poster wraps on the concrete pillars are gone. I know this is sappy, but I loved walking by and seeing Jackie's and Duke's etc pics on those posters; they made me happy and nostalgic and fostered mad love for my team. Like, the kinds of things you do as an owner to foster mad love by your fans for the team. Ahem.

Concession lines were interminably bad...maybe even slower than last year, if that is a physical possibility given the laws governing time and space.

Concessions are pretty much the same with the exceptions Sax and others have noted. Don't understand how, if there is a money-making opportunity, and presuming the ownership wants to make money (ahem, again), they don't plan for a broader and better range of food offerings. Most every modern ballpark has all sorts of offerings and solid options. The non-Canter's seems a poor attempt at just providing passable sandwiches. Dodger Dogs aside, develop a stadium specialty, maybe based on or around a local LA specialty. Did anyone in this area of ownership go to business school?

Seats on Saturday night we splattered with dried soda. Clearly no one had cleaned up very carefully after the previous game. In fact, on Opening Day, the day one mint feel the stadium should be the cleanest of the season, there was trash stuffed in the cupholders in front of my seat, and more trash around and urn the seat, On Opening friggin Day. I know there was a exhibition game the Ning before, but come on, the place should the immaculate for the holiest of holy days in baseball.

Oh, and the bunting. Opening Day bunting that was present on Opening Day itself was already gone by last night's game. Did the ownership rent it from a tux shop or something and needed to return it my Sunday? Come on...this is a grand tradition to have the bunting a full opening series. I knowit sounds like a small thing to complain about, but when added together with the rest of the non-amenities, you start to get the feeling that they're skimping.

Oh, and while I'm standing in the interminably slow concession line, there'd are virtually no TV monitors left on which to keep up with what is happening in the game. Having nice monitors is virtually a given in any other modern park and in any other sports arena. They now have fewer and smaller ones at DS, and they look like the hand me down TV I got for my room when I turned 14. In 1984.

My sister in law also reports that the margarita machine was broken in the stand she had stood in line for 15 minutes for. How is the machine broken on Opening Day? They had 5 months to repair, replace, and test the machine to get it ready for the big day.


Having said all that, I enjoyed my time at the Yard and look forward to going back again soon. Just throw us some bones, McCourt. You have a rabid fan base but you gotta

Dusty Baker said...

you gotta give us some bread and circus, else folks will fall off further than they may have already. I was there Saturday night, and it was EMBARRASSINGLY empty.

Steve Sax said...

@Dusty: Second your motion on the lack of bunting. With Juan Pierre gone from the lineup, you'd think there would room for SOME bunting in the stadium. Even hanging from the field-level ribbon.

All Star Carpet Care said...

I hope that every Dodger fan with join me in making a donation to the Stow fund. I'm all for a little verbal back and forth but this crap is making Dodger fans look like a bunch of soccer hooligans...

To Donate Online - go to www.sfpcu.org to place your donation. Please indicate The Bryan Stow Fund. Account # 1377733

To Donate By Mail: Checks should be made out to "The Bryan Stow Fund"

Mail your donation to:
SF Police Credit Union
c/o San Mateo Branch
1495 S. El Camino Real
San Mateo, CA 94402